Beat Making in Ableton Live

Master the processes and techniques for programming professional-grade electronic drum beats in Ableton Live.

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Want to make huge-sounding beats that people can't help but dance to? Making great beats is about so much more than just writing in notes on a piano roll or jamming out on a drum pad. From Dilla to Diplo, Quincy Jones to Com Truise, or Fly-Lo to Flume, electronic beats have come a long way — and these days are funkier and deeper than ever.

In this six-week course, Ableton Certified Trainer Dan Freeman takes you on a comprehensive tour of Ableton Live's drum programming capabilities. Each week, Dan will guide you with in-depth videos, illustrations, and activities. You'll practice laying out simple beats, manipulating them with effects, creating break beats, humanizing and randomizing them, and other pro tips for creating bigger, better beats.  

*Note: While not required, a basic familiarity with Live will help with this course. This course is all about making beats, rather than a comprehensive overview of the software.  

Dan Freeman

Ableton Certified Trainer

Dan, also known as CØm1x, is an Ableton Certified Trainer, artist/producer/bassist, and music technologist based in Brooklyn, New York. One of the world's leading experts on the integration of live instruments with laptops using Ableton Live, he does live electronic acid house and electro­ funk sets that integrate live musicianship with improvised sound creation and visuals. He has performed and presented at venues, festivals and universities globally including SXSW, Harvard University, Berklee, Sonar (Barcelona), Berghain (Berlin), Centro Cultural Español (Mexico City), IATEC (Rio de Janeiro), AIMEC (Curitiba, Brazil), The Strøm Festival (Copenhagen), La Universidad de Santiago (Chile), DJLAB (San Jose, Costa Rica) and the Festival Internacional de la Imagen (Manizales, Colombia).

Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Dan comes from a bi-cultural background: his mother is Nicaraguan and his father American, so he grew up exposed to a rich variety of music. He graduated Harvard University, and came to NYC to be a session bass player and performed throughout North America, South America, and Europe in venues ranging from underground Brooklyn loft parties to Broadway pits and Carnegie Hall. He also played keyboards for the RCA Records’ rock group Stellastarr*. In 2008, he formed the electro funk digital music and art collective Comandante Zero (CØ). CØ developed techniques for fusing live acoustic instruments with laptops running Ableton Live and created their own unique hybrid set as well as serving as a backing band for various artists including Polina Goudieva and Virgin Records’ artist Xavier.

Currently, Dan has a production studio in Gowanus, Brooklyn where he mixes, remixes electronic music and writes for film as well as performs with his electro funk digital art and music collective Comandante Zero (CØ). Dan has designed curriculum centered around Ableton Live for several institutions. Previously he served as a senior instructor at New York City's Dubspot where he taught electronic music production and headed Dubspot International. He is currently on the faculty of New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music where teaches producing music with software and MIDI. He also curates the Digital + Acoustic Sessions, a monthly event in Brooklyn, New York at ShapeShifter Lab that features artists using Ableton and live instruments in cutting ­edge new ways.

In 2015, he founded the Brooklyn Digital Conservatory, a platform that brings top digital music producers/performers and educators to emerging markets in Latin America and Asia for courses and performances. Since its foundation, the Brooklyn Digital Conservatory has run workshops and courses in Chile, Costa Rica, Italy and Colombia with workshops scheduled in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico for 2017.

You can find out more about Dan here:

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dan freeman
drum machines
ableton live
beat making
sound design
kick drums
drum rack
programming drums

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Program professional-grade electronic drum beats

By the end of this course, you’ll have everything you need to be able to make more dynamic, interesting, well-designed beats in Ableton Live.

Master Multiple Beat Making Approaches

We explore a few different ways to create interesting beats with the Drum Rack instrument and other Live tools.

Give Your Beats a More Human Feel

We go through how to use velocity, randomization, and other tricks to make your electronic beats sound more human.

Get Creative with Sample-Based Beats

We show you the classic art of creating breakbeats, and how to use samples to create more unique music.

Shape Your Drums with Sound Design

We explore how to use EQ, compression, and other effects to let you get more creative with your sounds.


Add a custom mentorship session on top of your course subscription to work through the material one-on-one with an expert mentor. Get a more personalized experience featuring weekly calls, feedback, additional resources, and more. Tell us about your goals below to learn more.

Ian Barnett

Drummer, Producer, DJ
  • Hip-hop and footwork producer (artist name Mallow)
  • Performed with major artists Betty Who and Marlon Craft
  • TV Credits include performances on Today Show, The View, James Corden, MTV, and more

Sam Friedman

Producer, Songwriter, Educator
  • Original music featured in The Fader and Bullett Magazine
  • Music featured in ads for Taco Bell, Converse, Coke, etc.
  • Producer for Mophonics agency making music for ads and major clients

Jamie Billings

Engineer, Sound Designer
  • Audio designer at MIT Audio Labs
  • Pro Tools Certified Instructor
  • Graduate in electronic production and design from Berklee
  • Leads production workshops at NYU


Course Outline

  1. Preview
    Section 1


  2. Section 2

    Working with Presets

  3. Section 3

    Building Your Own Kit

  4. Section 4

    The Pencil Tool

  5. Section 5

    Velocity & Variation

  6. Preview
    Section 6

    Sound Design

  7. Preview
    Section 7

    Slice to MIDI

  8. Section 8

    Advanced Techniques

  9. Section 9

    Final Project


What will I learn in this course?

You'll learn how to program drums, create your own unique Drum Rack instruments, get creative with sound design, sample breakbeats, randomize drum fills, humanize your grooves, synthesize huge sub kicks, and more!

Are there any pre-reqs?

There aren't any course prerequisites, but you'll need a copy of Ableton Live. While beginners to Live are welcome, it's important to know that this is not an introduction to Ableton Live course, but rather focused very specifically on beat making, so you might need to reference Live's documentation occasionally or ask for help. If you don't have a license you can follow along with the free demo.

How long does this course take?

This course was designed to be completed in roughly six weeks, assuming students would have a few hours a week to spend on it. Each "week" includes a certain section and challenge activity for you to take on. That said, that timeline is just a casual recommendation — you can choose to blow through it all in one sitting or take a year with it, if you'd like.

Is there a specific start date?

You can start the course anytime. If you'd like more accountability and guided feedback from a professional, you can request to work through the course and your own goals with a Soundfly Mentor for four or six weeks, and get a more personalized experience for a specific period of time.  

Learn more about custom mentorship here.

How many lessons are there?

This course includes 47 lessons, including videos, graphics, text, activities, demos, a downloadable sample pack, and much more. 

What do I get if I enroll as a subscriber?

As a subscriber, you'll get unlimited access to all courses on, including this and all our other premium courses, to go through at your own pace. This includes all the videos, tutorials, demos, quizzes, activities, downloads, and other materials within our full suite of courses.

You're also entitled to a 25% discount on our custom mentorship program, you will be invited to join our exclusive community Discord group, you'll be able join subscriber-only Study Groups, artist Q&As and workshops, annual contests and giveaways, and you'll have access to a growing list of exclusive discount perks courtesy of our partner brands. Cancel anytime.

You can find out more about subscribing here.

Can I take this course with a mentor?

Yes, absolutely. If you would like to go through the course with support, accountability, feedback, and guidance from an expert, you can request a mentor by filling out this form. A Soundfly staffperson will reach out within 48 hours to learn more about your goals, your music, and your skills level, and pair you with a mentor who can help you achieve your next musical milestone. Our mentorship program is our science-backed learning model designed to help you learn more efficiently and effectively. Your mentor will tailor the course to your experience and interests, offer detailed weekly feedback on your work, answer any questions you have, help you blow past obstacles, and keep you on track to accomplish your goals.

You can find out more about mentorship and our expert mentors here.